Confederate battle flag flies to $59,750 as top lot in Civil War Auction

Matthew Brady ‘Gallant Pelham’ ambrotype thrills to the tune of $41,825 in June 25 event


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Early Civil War prototype Confederate national/battle flag manufactured for the cause in Georgia. $50,787.50. Photo courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries

DALLAS – Rare artifacts relating to famous Sons of the South proved both popular and valuable with the more than 780 bidders who competed for almost 900 lots in Heritage Auctions’ $1.16 million June 25 Signature® Arms & Militaria Including Civil War auction, with the presentation flag of Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, along with the inscribed sword and sword belt he was wearing when he was killed in battle at Champion’s Hill, leading the way with a $59,750 price realized. All prices include 19 1/2 percent buyer’s premium.

“This was the very first time that this flag, along with the entire set, has ever been offered,” said Dennis Lowe, Director of Arms & Militaria Including Civil War Auctions at Heritage, “and collectors took very close notice. All three of these pieces have descended, uninterrupted, through Tilghman’s family for almost 150 years.”

Tilghman was born in Maryland and graduated from West Point in 1836. In 1847 he saw action in the Mexican War and, at the outbreak of the Civil War, commanded the Kentucky State Guard, assuming command of the 3rd Kentucky Infantry on July 5, 1861, and being promoted to Brigadier General on Oct. 18 of that same year.

Tilghman oversaw the construction of Forts Henry and Donelson and was subsequently captured at Fort Henry on Feb. 6, 1862, before being imprisoned at Fort Warren for six months. On Aug. 15 of that year he was exchanged for Union Gen. John Reynolds. Nine months later he was killed in action at the Battle of Champion’s Hill, on May 16, 1863.

One of the most hotly anticipated lots of the auction, a Matthew Brady half plate ambrotype featuring “The Gallant Pelham,” Lieutenant John Pelham, circa 1858, was the subject of much pre-auction buzz, and did not disappoint as it brought $41,825. Pelham is one of the most highly romanticized figures of the American Civil War.

“This important original image, while copied countless hundreds of times,” said Lowe, “was presumed lost for more than a century before it was discovered to have descended in the family of Pelham’s sister for the last 100 years.”

Civil War battle flags, as evidenced by the top lot in this auction, are among the most highly desirable artifacts from the War Between the States, especially if they are specifically associated with important figures from the war. However, flags without specific association, but important and unimpeachable provenance are also very much coveted by collectors, as seen by the $50,788 final price realized for an early Civil War prototype Confederate national/battle flag manufactured for the cause in Georgia.

Further highlights include, but are not limited to:

Coin silver presentation pitcher to Captain Joseph Ellison, founder of the Mistick Krewe of Comus, by the members of the New Orleans Confederate Guard, Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, March 20, 1862: An important piece owned by the founder of modern Mardi Gras in New Orleans and a romantic soldier of the South. Realized: $22,705.

Fine condition U.S. M1863 Type II .58 caliber Springfield percussion rifled musket, Springfield/1864: with attached silver plaque identifying the gun to Congressional Medal of Honor winner Abraham Greenawalt, Co. G 104th Ohio Vol. Inf. A superbly identified Civil War musket, that was “fired in anger” at The Battle of Franklin, Tenn., one of the most viciously contested combat actions of the entire American Civil War. Realized: $21,500.

Historically important carved American Revolutionary War powder horn with the carved legend “Elijah Sexton His Horn A Son Of Liberty”: Sexton enlisted from Connecticut, April 21, 1775, just two days after Lexington and Concord, in Captain Emory Pease’s Company, part of General Israel Putnam’s command, subsequently enlisting six different times in various Connecticut regiments through the course of the war. Although apparently not engaged at Bunker Hill on June 17, Sexton stated that his “regiment lay within range of the British guns on the day of that battle.” Indeed one soldier in his regiment was killed by British artillery fire that day. Realized: $11,950.

For more information about this and other Heritage auctions, and to join and gain access to a complete record of prices realized, along with full-color, enlargeable photos of each lot, visit www.HA.com.

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More Images:

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Confederate presentation flag, 37 1/2 inches by 39 1/2 inches, sword and sword belt. Sold by Heritage Auction Galleries June 25, 2010, for $59,750, including buyer's premium. Photo courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries

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